Housing is an issue in Region B, which is home to large numbers of students. While there are some other challenges in the area, on the whole crime is low and development is high.
FAST-paced population growth and rampant urbanisation are some of the major challenges facing Region B, which lies along the western side of the city.
UJ is just one of tertiary institutions in Region BUJ is one of the two biggest tertiary institutions in Region BThe region is the centre of most activities, and borders on four other City regions, according to Vusi Mavuso, the regional director. “Most of the professionals prefer to stay here because of its serenity that gives time to reflect,” he says.
Region B is a place of contrasts. It stretches from the degraded suburbs of Brixton, Westbury and Langlaagte, to the affluent middle and upper income suburbs of Florida, Cresta, Randburg and Rosebank. Within its borders lie Wits University and University of Johannesburg.
“Its economic basis is modern and aimed at the future. It offers many opportunities for growth and extension for the investor and developer.”
Like any region, however, Region B has its share of problems.
Shortage of housing for students is one of them, mainly the result of the rapid growth of the two universities. There are about 63 000 students registered at the two, which only provide accommodation for 15 000.
The balance of those whose homes are not in Johannesburg, have to find living space in nearby neighbourhoods. Mavuso is concerned about the increase in slum-lording and the general decay of residential areas in his region.
Many house owners take advantage of the students’ plight and crowd them in inhumane conditions for profit. “These infringements are quite problematic. If we are able to have a dedicated capacity of resources we will be able to turn the tide.”
Informal trading is a huge problem in Region BInformal trading is a huge problem in Region BHe adds that they work closely with local communities to address such concerns.
Windsor East, in Cresta, is particularly problematic. There has been an upsurge in criminal and drug activity in the suburb, which suffers from overcrowding in some residential units. “It is a critical area that needs great attention. Our concern is that it’s beginning to appear like Hillbrow,” Mavuso says.
“We need to find a mechanism of dealing with such matters.”
Tenants who cannot afford to pay the rent on their own are sub-letting, resulting in overcrowding. Mavuso believes that the owners of the buildings are the actual offenders as they are not taking responsibility and enforcing strict procedures.
“Strict penalties need to be introduced to bring these owners to book.” He points out that the inner city model should be extended to such areas to deal with urban decay.
Partnerships between local communities and police forums, as well as anti-crime initiatives, can help reduce crime rates significantly.
The number of hawkers has increased in Rosebank, Cresta and Melville, and Mavuso says it is difficult to regulate informal traders. “Although attempts to provide dedicated spots for hawkers to trade without any hindrance have been made, they obviously tend to overspill to other places.”
He emphasises the need to educate people on their rights and responsibilities rather than use the iron fist to keep the activity under control. “I think it’s all about people learning to appreciate where they are supposed to operate and not just trade anywhere.”
A number of projects that will change the face of Region B are taking shape.
MavusoVusi Mavuso, Region B regional directorArguably the biggest of these is Rea Vaya, the City’s flagship Bus Rapid Transit system. Infrastructure construction is taking place in Region B, with new routes being crafted and stations being established.
The route will cut through the region, linking Soweto and the west with the central business district and the east. It will run along Empire Road, in Milpark, and traverse suburbs such as Auckland Park, Westdene, Westbury, Bosmont and Noordgesig.
Excited about the development, Mavuso points out that the completion of the public transport option will make life easier for most commuters.
“We hope that by June, we will have a fully fledged operational BRT service that will be able to take the pressure of commuters who will want to travel with relative ease and comfort to their destination.”
It will benefit the students in the area immensely.
Another key development that is expected to boost the region is the building of the Gautrain station in Rosebank. Densification around Rosebank is expected as a direct consequence of the station, which is being built next to the retail precinct.
“We have identified a number of business prospects for new business which will come into manifestation in the following months,” Mavuso adds.
There is a low level of crime in the area, attributed to the high number of police stations it has. “The main secret of the success is swift community and police response to crime calls and routine neighbourhood programmes.”
He points out that the programme stems from strong, focused leadership, good organisation and close co-operation between volunteer networks, police and the two main private security companies.
“We have made some strides in creating a safe environment that people can enjoy.”
Rea Vaya to get more routes
Randburg CPF doing well
Sithole checks out Region B facilities
Regional SDF2010/11: Region B
Rea Vaya phase two steaming ahead